My father – giving his fallen comrades a salute at the Omaha Beach Cemetery in Normandy

On a Saturday, two years ago, my 87 year old father announced he was going to Normandy for D-day celebration. I asked when the last time he used a passport, it was over ten years ago so I told him I didn’t think he could go. A day later he called and said he had his tickets, his passport, and was headed to France. Since my mom wasn’t going with him there was only one thing to do – we all decided to go.

You will hear about the amazing heroics of those young men who invaded the beaches that day. You see my dad saluting those fallen soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. But most of the war was won not by those men who shot their way up the beach, or the decorated officers, but by people like my dad. A buck private, drafted into the army at age 19. When Normandy was invaded he was digging officer’s latrines in England, and six weeks later he went there. In the engineering corp he helped get rid of land mines, build bridges, and peeled a lot of potatoes. He also liberated a bit of wine that only the finest connoisseur could wish for (today his wine of choice is a white zinfandel).

We had a great trip -but besides the vivid memory of those beaches, and the cemetery – my favorite memory was when we all arrived in Paris. There were three veterans on that tour, all three had been privates in the army. That afternoon the only people in the bar at the Mercur hotel were those three vets, having a drink and thinking back 68 years. In 1944 they were not allowed to go to Paris, and as soldiers it was hard to find a drink – the world was in a World War, with Hitler having won most of Europe. Now these vets had won. The greatest generation- a few of them left – enjoying a drink in the afternoon, in Paris, looking out over the Eiffel Tower.

There is also a reason the people of Normandy are, unlike the reputation of the rest of France, love Americans – we liberated them. And it was those young kids, the GI soldiers, that made the impression that they have never forgotten. We shouldn’t either.

Thanks dad, and the rest of the greatest generation.